Both sides signal deal possible in Berkeley funeral home landmark fight

The funeral home is located at 4345 W. 46th Ave. in Denver. (Google Maps)

A deal in the works could end the fight over a closed funeral home in Berkeley.

On Tuesday, the developer seeking to demolish the former Olinger Moore Howard Chapel at 4345 W. 46th Ave., and local residents that have requested the city to designate it a landmark, jointly asked a City Council committee to pause consideration of the request to allow for further talks.

While the committee voted to send the landmark request to the full council, the pause will be considered and likely implemented by a separate city body, the Landmark Preservation Commission, this coming Tuesday.

Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval represents northwest Denver. She said Denver-based Koelbel & Co., the developer seeking to build townhomes at the site, and residents that are members of a preservation-minded neighborhood group called Historic Berkeley Regis, had met twice in recent weeks in the presence of a mediator.

“The meetings have been really intense,” Sandoval said. “There’s been open dialogue. It’s been really challenging, but there has been dialogue.”

While a specific compromise has not been reached, Koelbel & Co.’s Carl Koelbel said. “There is a proposal that we have put forth that we think has pretty major concessions on our side.” He did not elaborate further.

Historic Berkeley Regis’ Tom Simmons, meanwhile, signaled a third party is interested in buying and reusing the existing funeral home, and that development could occur on the surrounding parking lot.

“We have identified several people that have either made offers or are in the process of making offers for the building. … We think that a pause would provide the opportunity of a serious offer coming forward,” Simmons said.

The structure, at the corner of 46th Avenue and Tennyson Street, was built as a funeral home in 1960 and designed by J. Roger Musick, a local architect whose other work includes Bryant-Webster Elementary School and First Baptist Church. Both are Denver landmarks and on the National Register of Historic Places.

Koelbel is under contract to buy the site from Houston-based Service Corporation International, which operated the funeral home prior to its closure in January. SCI opposes designating the structure a landmark, which would prevent demolition, but has left it largely to Koelbel to speak publicly.

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